The Chicago International Film Festival is a welcome annual arrival, and I’m delighted once again to provide capsule reviews of as many of the films as I can manage to see. All films are shown at the AMC River East Theaters, 322 E. Illinois St. here in the great city of Chicago, Illinois. Part 1 is here. Part 2. Part 3.
Santa & Andrés (Cuba / Colombia, 2016) is a modest but solid second feature from director Carlos Lechuga. Santa (Lola Amores) is a tall and rangy single woman who does farm work on a nearby cattle ranch. But she’s also recently been recruited by the official (and officious) Jesus (George Abreu), who may be a love interest of hers but is foremost the local head of the Cuban Communist party for that rural region, who charges Santa with detaining a dissident author who’s been put under indefinite house arrest. Party officials, dignitaries, the press, etc., are attending a “peace forum” nearby, and they don’t want Cuba’s undesirables stirring up any mischief for those three days. So Santa, carrying a kitchen chair, walks to the cinder-block “home” of Andrés (Eduardo Martínez), plants her chair across from the front door, eyes him warily, never smiles and sits sentinel.
Andrés not only wrote books and articles not particularly supportive of la revolución, he’s also made the political miscalculation of being a gay man. Santa theoretically understands why Andrés might constitute a threat to orderly Cuban society, but their progressively-more-civil interactions only serve to convince Santa that he’s a pretty harmless nice guy. The three-day vigil concluded, Santa continues to stop by to see him nonetheless, and they form a furtive and fragile friendship, with Santa learning far more about the details of a gay man’s life than she’s perhaps prepared for, while he provides an unlikely conduit for her to decompress some long-suppressed feelings of her own.
The film primarily feels like a very good short story, and Lechuga tells the tale with an oddly straightforward delicacy – the weather’s always sunny, there are visits to the beach and the bars, but we never lose a sense of gravity, or forget how much more is at stake for both of them. It’s very nice work, and I hope it gets further distribution from here.
Santa & Andrés screens on Tuesday, October 18th at 8:45 pm, Wednesday the 19th at 8:00 pm and Wednesday the 26th at 12:15 pm (an $8.00 matinee).